Thursday, May 14, 2009

For carbon sequestration, it's test time

It works in laboratory bench-scale tests, but the viability of capturing carbon emissions on a large, commercial scale and storing them underground is still unproven.

American Electric Power hopes to prove that it an be done with a test that could last three years at its Mountaineer Plant in New Haven,
West Virginia.

The project expects to capture 200,000 metric tons of CO2 per year and inject it for geological storage in deep saline aquifers at the site. If the 20-mega watt trial proves successful, the company will implement the same technology, in 2010, in a ramped-up 200-megawatt project at another plant in Oklahoma.

The ultimate outcome of the tests holds great significance for the coal industry in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, is generated in the process of burning coal to produce electricity. It is the prime reason why environmentalists nationwide oppose permit renewals for existing coal-fueled power plants and oppose the construction of new plants which rely on coal as their fuel source.

In a recent report, the state of Pennsylvania identified four "potential geologic sequestration reservoirs in western and north-central Pennsylvania." Each of the locations, the report says, meets the U.S. Department of Energy's 2,500-foot depth criteria for permanent sequestration of CO2.

In New Jersey, a company recently announced plans to seek approval for 500 megawatt, coal-fueled facility using a 100-mile, underground pipeline to push as much as 10 million tons of CO2 annually -- emissions from the new plant and eventually neighboring industrial operations -- to a point 70 miles off the coast and about 2,200 yards beneath the Atlantic Ocean.

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Related environmental news:
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